Selecting a Good Retail Leasing Expert

When you run a retail real estate agency specialising in retail leasing and property management, you really need a top agent that knows what retail property is all about.  The leasing of retail is very special; far more so than office or industrial property.  The selection of tenants will be made with due regard to the tenancy mix and the customer profiles that access the property.

It can take a leasing agent some years to fully understand the complexity of shopping centre performance and how tenants should be selected for a current or pending vacancy in the property.  The correct tenant selection will help boost the customer attraction of the property, and eventually the turnover or trade.

So what would you expect a retail leasing specialist to know or bring to you and your agency?  Here are some tips to help you:

  • Rents will vary from property to property.  This change requires knowledge and experience when it comes to gross and net rents, together with the incentives that are available to lease premises to new retail tenants in your local area.
  • Lease types together with the terms and conditions for a particular tenant will require negotiation based on the local leasing laws relating to retail property.  In many respects, retail leasing is more complex and the documentation behind the process is more rigid and
  • Tenant enquiry will change from location to location, however in retail property it is very much the case that the leasing agent has to get out into the business community and the other local shopping centres to talk to the existing tenants.  In this way they will find tenants that want to relocate, expand, or contract.  It is important to choose tenants that are at the top of their product or service offering.
  • New shopping centre projects and development timing will have impact on your current shopping centre and its future performance.  Always watch the supply and demand for retail space locally.  Any new leasing specialist should track these changes and the availability of retail space coming into the property market over the coming 2 years.
  • Property owners and new tenants that are looking for retail property are a unique breed unto themselves.  They require understanding and a leasing expert that can talk ‘retail’ from many different angles.
  • Franchise groups will require retail space to locate new businesses into.  That being said, franchises are a business model that has particular requirements of location and customer base.  It pays to have a leasing expert that understands how the franchises think and what they are looking for.
  • Outgoings costs will have a major impact on rental (gross and net) as well as a tenants occupancy costs.  Every retail property will have outgoings of a level that allows the property to operate efficiently and safely.  The important factor here is that the outgoings for a particular property should be of a level that is comparable to other properties locally of similar size and type.
  • Tenant mix and clustering are knowledge skills needed by a retail leasing expert.  When the tenant mix is correctly structured it builds a better market rental for the landlord and helps reduce the vacancy factor in the property.
  • Document knowledge and negotiation skills in retail property are quite unique when it comes to handling and working with small businesses.  A leasing expert should understand what variables can be used in a good lease negotiation for a shopping centre or retail property.

So, all of these things would indicate that a retail leasing expert is a special type of person.  Over time these skills can be learned; importantly the person chosen for the role has the right skill mix to take the role to the top of the industry locally.

Common Sense Tenancy Mix Analysis in Retail Property

In a retail property today, the tenant mix is likely to be the ‘make or break’ factor in property performance.  A good tenant mix will help the property thrive and underpin the rentals for the property and the landlord.

So how can you get to know what works?  It is easy to see examples of tenant mix profiles in other properties and then compare them to your property.  Look for the situations that work and those that do not.

Clustering is one factor worth examining in other properties to see how they may handle the cluster concepts.  Whilst you are there, look at their vacancy factors and just how they work with them.

Competing properties will also have factors of tenant loss and relocation; that is a good source of new tenants for your property.

Here are some other tips that can help you in your tenant mix design and property business plan.

  1. Understand the local demographic of customers before you do anything else.  Are there changes in the local area that will impact the customer base now or in the next couple of years?  If so the factors will need to be in your business plan for the property. The business plan should be done every 12 months and reviewed quarterly.
  2. Undertake a customer survey in your property and in the surrounding area.  You will learn so many key things from that process.  Why do people shop in your property?  What would they like to see changed and why?  How often do people come to your property and on what days?
  3. Check out the existing competing properties in the local area.  In this way you will see the differences that their customers see.  Pay particular attention to the access and convenience factors with those properties before you look at the tenant mix internally.  If there is one thing that frustrates many shoppers it is access and convenience.  Can your retail property improve on anything that the other properties are struggling with?
  4. The maintenance of your property will be driven by property layout, customer visits, and building age. Retail property is one of the most costly property types to maintain.  That is why outgoings in retail are so high.
  5. The anchor tenant or tenants in your property are likely to be established on a long lease(s) with appropriate rent reviews.    The anchor tenant profile will help you lease the specialty tenant premises in the property.  Create sound relations with your anchor tenants so the customer targets that they have integrate to the overall marketing plan for the property overall and the general tenant mix.

A great retail property performance is a constantly moving target.  Over time you will be modifying your plans and strategies when new things are seen or the local area changes.  Get involved with the local retail businesses and shopping community; you will soon know what they are looking for.

Shopping Centre Managers – Retail Property Leasing Specialisation

woman shopping for pears in supermarket
Retail shop leasing requires special knowledge and experience.

When you work in commercial real estate, you will see those ‘retail specialists’ in the local area that focus within the retail property market.  Those retail people are very specialized given that their property type is quite specific and heavily geared to the local demographic.

In simple terms, a retail leasing specialist or property manager should help retail tenants improve their business and on that basis improve property occupation.  When all of this occurs correctly, the prevailing market rental for the property will be underpinned and potentially grow.  Over time this will also help the landlord for the property achieve a better price if and when the property comes up for sale.

So there is a significant link between tenant selection, retail trade, property leasing, and property performance.  For this very reason those of us in the industry that understand retail property do so at a very high level and can talk across a large variety of strategies that relate to retail sales, leasing, and shopping centre management.  The clients that we work for and especially those that own any complex retail property will only work use the best retail property people in the industry.

There are many things that should be considered and consolidated into your retail experience and knowledge base.

  1. Market rentals will change from property type to property type.  They will also change by location within the property.  The positioning of a tenancy inside a retail premises will dictate the levels of rental, as will the size of the premises.  There is no fixed and firm equation that can be provided to help you here, except the process of gaining market awareness and information from comparable properties.  Over time you will understand what makes a property location different than others.  You will also understand the priorities of tenancy location that will boost the rental in one particular spot or one particular property.
  2. Different businesses can pay and absorb different levels of rental as part of property occupation.  As a case in point, you will find that one tenancy type can pay more rental than another tenancy type.  For example you could compare a shoe repair type tenancy to a food type tenancy.  The levels of rental from each will be completely different for the same shop location, given that they will have separate levels of turnover relative to their business type.  If the rent is too high for the business type, they will simply disappear as a tenant.
  3. Different retail leases and different lease strategies will occur all the time.  You become a strategist when it comes to utilising rental incentives, gross rent, net rent, lease terms, rent reviews, and option strategies.  All of these are negotiated with due regard to the plans of the property owner, the age of the property, the tenant, and the demographics of the shopper.
  4. When it comes to retail property, the success of the tenancy mix will largely be driven by the demographics of the area.  Stay on top of the changes to the local property demographics and ensure that the property matches the current and future needs of the local community.  That being said, you really do need to know exactly who your shopper is and why they visit the property.  You also need to know what they require and when they need it.
  5. Tenant enquiry for new premises will change from time to time based on the regional and local business sentiment.  For this very reason, you should be staying very close to the retail businesses and franchise groups.  All of those people in your database should be contacted regularly to identify any changes in leasing needs or opportunities.
  6. Watch the activities of any competing retail properties in your area.  That will include the tenancy mix, expansion and contraction factors, refurbishment, and relocation challenges.  These trends and activities will give you some leverage in leasing and property performance.

Retail property people are specialists in their property craft.  Their knowledge and expertise will be sought after when it comes to the larger shopping centers and the bigger retail leasing needs.  Franchise groups and anchor tenants will also seek the assistance of retail property specialists.

Finding More Retail Tenants for Your Tenant Mix

girl shopping for CDs and music
Choose the best tenants for your tenant mix by checking out the competing properties and tenants.

When you manage or lease retail property or premises within a shopping centre, it can always be a challenge to find the right type of tenants for the vacancies as they arise.  It is important to stay ahead of your vacancy problems and challenges within the tenancy mix.

If a tenant is nearing the end of their lease, it is simply a matter of them vacating the premises or a new lease being created.  If you work 12 months out from the event, you can plan whatever steps are necessary to resolve the vacancy quickly and effectively.

Here are some tips to help you with finding tenants to lease retail property:

  • Monitor the activities of other shopping centres nearby.  They will have some tenants looking to move or change premises for a variety of reasons.
  • Keep in contact with all the franchise groups through the region and nationally.  They may be looking for new premises for another franchise tenant location.  That being said, you will need to understand the lease requirements and lease documentation standards that apply to each franchise group.  It is likely that the lease documentation will be different to that which the landlord would normally use.
  • Create a retail leasing property update newsletter.  This newsletter can be circulated through the retail business community in your local area.  In the newsletter you can provide tips and ideas regards leasing new premises.  Given that most businesses have Email contact, a newsletter can be based on the use of an auto responder and an Email System.
  • Maintain regular contact with all the businesses through the local area.  Have particular focus on the successful businesses with strong branding.  Give them regular property updates so they can understand the changes in rental and incentives as they apply to retail property.
  • The anchor tenant in your retail property will have a significant impact on customer visits to the property and the trade for the specialty retail tenants.  A good anchor tenant will also attract new tenants to your property.  Encourage the anchor tenant to interact with all the specialty tenants in the shopping centre.
  • A shopping centre that is well maintained and marketed to the community, will be of attraction to new tenancies.  Ensure that your property satisfies both of these issues.  Establishing a productive marketing campaign to attract more shoppers to the property through all of the trading seasons.

When it comes to leasing and managing retail premises, early lease negotiations and preparation for any new tenant vacancy, marketing, and occupancy are key strategies to adopt.  A retail property is a vibrant and yet challenging type of property investment.  Work with your tenants at the earliest possible time, and you will find good results for all concerned.

Vacancy Rates in Retail Property Today

woman walking in shopping centre supermarket
Get your vacancy rates down. Monitor all leases and tenant changes. Find new tenants fast.

The most important step in keeping your shopping centre or mall occupied is realising the total economic impact of having to re-lease the space.

Consider the effect should one of your tenants go out of business:

  • Can you find a replacement tenant?
  • If so, how long will it take?
  • Will you be able to achieve anywhere close to similar rental from a new tenant?
  • What will legal fees cost you, if you choose to go after the old tenant for leasehold performance?
  • What will leasing commissions for a new tenant cost you?
  • What will tenant improvements cost, plus an inevitable period of free rent?

Unless you have awfully deep pockets, you can’t afford substantial vacancy in your centre – so you can’t afford to ignore your tenants’ concerns.

  • Be willing to listen to their concerns. Tenant feedback can be most helpful.
  • Work on a new promotional campaign – with tenant input.
  • Does the centre need repairs? Paint or landscaping, for example? Consider the costs of repairs versus the cost of re-leasing should several tenants decide to leave.
  • Always search for ways to improve your centre. Strive to achieve the most dynamic tenant mix. If a tenant vacates, work hard to improve that space with a promotional tenant who will help the rest of the centre.
  • Finally, know your competition. If your centre is not competitive with those in the surrounding area and your centre management responds with complacency, the centre is doomed to failure.

Choosing the Right Tenant for the Retail Tenant Mix

woman shopping with bags
There are many steps to building a good retail tenant mix.

It is incumbent on any landlord to know his tenant’s business and how it will balance within the overall tenant mix profile. The landlord can then have a sense of how a lease deal can be made to ensure a long-term tenancy. The soundest economic lease agreement most probably will not be the highest rent agreement. Take the following steps when evaluating a prospective tenant:

  • Rent Capability: Question the tenant’s ability to pay the rent being negotiated. Be willing to move the tenant into a smaller or less expensive space if doing so is in both parties’ long-term interest.
  • Profit and Loss history: Ask for the tenant’s other stores’ profit and loss statements for comparative analysis.
  • Sales projections: Ask the tenant for the projected sales at your location. Do the numbers seem high or low in comparison with the per square foot sales of other categories like this in the centre or trade area?
  • Communicate: Establish a trusting rapport going into the tenancy. Handle relationships one to one so you hear of problems before it’s too late to resolve them.
  • Management strategy: Ask about the tenant’s management plan. Is he going to be an absentee owner, or a hands-on operator? Will his management team be able to weather a downturn in the economy or a direct competitor across the street?

Likewise, shopping centre management should continually evaluate existing tenants. Check their sales trends – are they up or down? If they are down, a meeting may be in order to address any existing problems. If your existing tenant has established a strong track record over a number of years, don’t lose him. Communicate. Again, understanding each another’s position will effectively maintain long-term tenancy.